Friday, December 08, 2006

Breaking Away

On Monday this week, Estonia and Finland linked their power grids by means of an undersea cable, thus loosening Russia’s energy grip on the Baltic States, and linking them to the countries of the EU.

Although the Estlink cable was laid mainly to provide the Nordic countries with electricity produced in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, it has been hailed as a key step in ensuring energy security for the Baltic states.

“The new link enhances greatly the energy security of Estonia,” Estonian Minister for Economic Affairs Edgar Savisaar said Monday at the Estonian opening ceremony of in Harku, near the capital Tallinn.

“The existence of Estlink will enable us to manage energy in a better way should our cooperation with the Russian energy system collapse,” Savisaar said.

The Baltic states are still linked to the Russian electricity grid, as they were during Soviet rule, which lasted from the end of World War II until 1991, and also rely heavily on Russia for supplies of natural gas and oil.

At the end of last month, Moscow announced huge hikes in the price of natural gas to the former Soviet republics in the Baltics, and Belarus, underscoring the importance of reducing dependence on Russia for supplies of fuel and electricity.

The process of freeing the Baltics from Moscow’s constantly escalating energy threats is taken a step further today, when Lithuania and Poland are due to sign an agreement committing them to linking their power grids, notes the BBC :

Baltic leaders are hailing the new connections as historically significant, as they reduce their countries’ dependence on Russia.

The three Baltic states, all former members of the Soviet Union, had no connections to the wider European energy grid until this week.

All three countries rely heavily on gas imported from Russia to supply their energy needs, and they feel vulnerable to their large neighbour, especially since the Ukrainian-Russian gas dispute in January.

(hat tip: Leopoldo)
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